284 LIFE OF niy subject, for which, according to my requirements, a life would scarcely suffice/' Although Humboldt speaks so modestly, in the commencement of this letter, of his philological knowledge, we may justly assume that he had advanced very far in this branch before this time; for it cannot be supposed that he who had attained to such eminence in the field of languages., should not have very early mastered the Greek tongue. Indeed, we shall soon see that the philosophy of language began to occupy his attention already at this period. We can, indeed, see in the words quoted above, nothing but the honourable modesty which would not permit him to address Wolf, on his exclusive field^ as an equal. In a letter to Schiller, written about the same period, he does not conceal that he feels himself sufficiently master of the Greek language to translate the most difficult Greek poet? who has hitherto been mastered by no one, in the rhythm of the original. It is, however, natural, that Humboldt should never have considered actual philo- logical knowledge as his chief purpose, although he considered that nothing in science could be trifling or unimportant. This he says} in a critical essay on Wolfs translation of the cc Odyssey/' in the following words:— "It is difficult to say what a trifle means. For him who is accustomed to study any branch of science in a philosophic spirit., no portion of it has a particular im- portance, but each has its value by its relation to the whole. By an exact view of the whole, not by casual suppression of the apparently unimportant, does a clever, spirited treatment of any subject differ from a pedantic one. In science, also, everything is inter- connected, and if the critic has to study the language to its full extent, it is difficult to understand why he should neglect accentuation and orthography, or only study it to a certain arbitrary extent." Tims Hum- boldt entered into all studies, and pursued each one which he found requisite for his purpose, as if it were, for the time, the chief purpose and task of his life.